Sparklers and fireworks on sale at the discount fireworks stand at Commercial Street SE and Bush Street SE in Salem on June 26, 2019 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)
As Oregon emerges from an exceptionally dry spring followed by a record-shattering heat wave last weekend, the list of cities which have banned the use of fireworks ahead of the Fourth of July are stacking up.
But Salem isn’t among them – and city officials said they have no plans to act.
Portland Fire and Rescue issued an immediate ban on the use of fireworks this week. Bend banned their use until July 9. Ashland canceled its Fourth of July fireworks show and has fireworks banned throughout the year. Hood River and the Dalles banned fireworks with an exception for professional shows.
As Oregon saw a devastating wildfire season last year, about a quarter of Marion County burned, cities are concerned about a severe wildfire season as nearly all the state is in some form of drought.
Salem won’t have its signature fireworks display in Riverfront Park, but hasn’t acted to restrict personal use or sales of legal fireworks.
Greg Walsh, Salem’s emergency manager, said the city isn’t considering a ban because the weather isn’t enough of a hazard to declare an emergency, which is what the city would have to do to institute a ban.
The Fourth of July is expected to be sunny with a high of 92 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
He said if the weather changes and reaches high temperatures like Monday’s 117-degree record-setting scorcher, the city will change course.
Walsh said the correct use of legal fireworks rarely cause problems. He added that the city doesn’t have the staff to drive around and stop neighborhood pyrotechnics shows.
“When we drive up everybody scatters,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to even enforce the ban on illegal fireworks.”
Last year, from June 23 to July 6, fireworks caused five fires that the Salem Fire Department responded to.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office last week said it will increase its patrols during the holiday weekend. It said illegal fireworks account for 99% of its calls for service around this time each year.
“It is no surprise these fireworks can cause injury, property damage, and easily start fires in dry brush,” the sheriff’s office said.
You can report the use of illegal fireworks by calling the sheriff's office non-emergency line at 503-588-5032 or the Salem Police Department non-emergency line at 503-588-6123. The sheriff’s office advises people not to call 911 unless there’s an emergency.
If you’re caught using illegal fireworks, you could face a $2,500 fine and a misdemeanor charge, the sheriff’s office said.
Retail fireworks in Oregon can only be sold between June 23 and July 6, and can’t fly more than a foot off the ground or travel more than six feet on the ground.
But people expecting to drive across state lines to buy bottle rockets, Roman candles or other fireworks that are illegal in Oregon will face another hurdle.
Tuesday Clark County in southwestern Washington outlawed the use and sale of all fireworks through midnight July 4.
On Tuesday, Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency due to the imminent threat of wildfire, allowing the state Department of Forestry and Office of the State Fire Marshal, in coordination with the state Office of Emergency Management, to utilize personnel, equipment, and facilities from other state agencies.
Jim Trierweiler, Marion County Fire Defense Board Chief, said the board is asking people to be responsible and refrain from using fireworks if they can. The board issued a burn ban in Marion County but doesn’t have the authority to implement a fireworks ban.
But he said he’s a realist.
“I think we all know what it’s going to look like on the Fourth of July. The people who already committed to bringing in the illegal fireworks and doing their own shows, we haven’t been able to stop that before. And I don’t expect this year to be any different. We can just hope for it,” he said.
Trierweiler said he was in the MacLeay area last Fourth of July when Salem “looked like Beirut. It was a complete fireworks show, there was lots of illegal stuff.”
Salem’s Riverfront Park fireworks show was canceled last year too, because of Covid.
Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]
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